Archive for September, 2006

September 27th, 2006

Light and Shadow

Posted in Images, Quotes by DavidE

Rashomon

Production photo from Rashomon (1950)

“Rashomon would be my testing ground, the place where I could apply the ideas and wishes growing out of my silent-film research. To provide the symbolic background atmosphere, I decided to use the Akutagawa “In a Grove” story, which goes into the depths of the human heart as if with a surgeon’s scalpel, laying bare its dark complexities and bizarre twists. These strange impulses of the human heart would be expressed through the use of an elaborately fashioned play of light and shadow.”

– Akira Kurosawa, as quoted in Something Like an Autobiography

September 27th, 2006

Inky Rain

Posted in Trivia by DavidE

Sometimes you have to heighten cinematic reality in order to make it seem more natural. That’s what director Akira Kurosawa had to do during the production of Rashomon (1950).

“In the downpour scenes showing the Rashomon Gate, Kurosawa found that the rain in the background simply wouldn’t show up against the light gray backdrop. To solve this problem, the crew ended up tinting the rain by pouring black ink into the tank of the rain machine.”

– Source: Internet Movie Database

September 23rd, 2006

The Wind

Posted in Images, Trivia by DavidE

The Wind

Poster for The Wind (1928)

One of the last great films of the silent era, The Wind (1928) was a difficult production. Filmed on location in the Mojave Desert, the dramatic wind effects were created from the propellers of eight aircraft.

“During filming, temperatures reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit, making life miserable for both cast and crew. The intense heat caused the film stock to warp, and it had to be packed in ice to remain intact. Lillian Gish touched an outside door handle, and was so severely burned that a small part of her palm’s flesh was scalded off.

“The airplane propellers blowing hot air, sand, and smoke were so dangerous that crewmembers were forced to wear long-sleeved clothing (in 120 degree weather), eye goggles, bandanas around their necks, and grease paint on their faces whenever the machines were being run.”

– Source: Internet Movie Database

September 23rd, 2006

Not the Same

Posted in Quotes by DavidE

“Interviewer (asking about Way Down East): Did you never use doubles in those days?

Lillian Gish: Never. I wasn’t sportsmanlike. And besides, we felt we moved in a certain way and that the audience could catch a double, they would walk differently, move differently and spoil the film. Or make them think something was wrong. And I think to this day they have that feeling when it’s not the same person.”

– Lillian Gish, interviewed for BBC-2 Late-Night Line Up (reprinted in Films & Filming, January 1970)

September 20th, 2006

Bamboo Isle

Posted in Images, Streams by DavidE

Bamboo Isle

Here’s a link to stream the classic cartoon: Bamboo Isle (1932). Betty and Bimbo are shipwrecked on a South Seas island, which gives Betty the perfect excuse to go native with a grass skirt and floral lei. Two years later, the Hayes Office production code would be in full force, and skimpy clothing — even on an animated character — would be strictly forbidden.

If you prefer to download this public domain cartoon, you can visit here.

September 20th, 2006

Betty Boop’s Voice

Posted in Trivia by DavidE

Was Helen Kane the inspiration for Betty Boop’s voice? Yes, though it couldn’t be proved in court.

“In April 1934, Helen Kane, whose popularity had waned since her debut in 1929, filed suit against Max Fleischer, Fleischer Studios and Paramount Pictures for $250,000. She claimed that Betty Boop had stolen her fans. Max Fleischer gave testimony that Betty Boop was not based on Helen Kane (which was untrue since she was one of the main inspirations for Betty). Five of the women who had been the voice for Betty appeared in court to deny that they had attempted to imitate Helen Kane’s voice. The judge watched and compared several of the cartoons with some of Helen Kane’s films. There was testimony that the ‘Boop Oop a Doop’ phrase came long before Helen Kane’s popularity, as one witness claimed to have heard the phrase uttered in an Edith Griffith song. And on May 2nd, Paramount Pictures was able to locate a film clip of another singer, Baby Esther, who used the same phrase in a song in 1928, hence Helen Kane lost her lawsuit.”

– Source: funtrivia.com

September 16th, 2006

Against Logic

Posted in Images, Quotes by DavidE

Boudu Saved from Drowning

Production photo from Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932)

“One of the best scenes in Boudu Saved from Drowning, the suicide attempt from the Pont des Arts, was made in total defiance of the logic of the scene. The crowd of unpaid extras gathered on the bridge and the river banks was not there to witness a tragedy. They came to watch a movie being made, and they were in good humor. Far from asking them to feign the emotion which verisimilitude would demand, Renoir seems to have encouraged them in their light-hearted curiosity. . . .

“For Renoir, what is important is not the dramatic value of a scene. Drama, action — in the theatrical or novelistic sense of the terms — are for him only pretexts for the essential, and the essential is everywhere in what is visible, everywhere in the very substance of the cinema.”

– André Bazin, from his book Jean Renoir

September 16th, 2006

One Movie

Posted in Quotes by DavidE

“A director makes only one movie in his life. Then he breaks it into pieces and makes it again.”

– Attributed to Jean Renoir

September 15th, 2006

Title Compression

Posted in Images, Trivia by DavidE

M

German poster for M (1931)

“Contrary to popular belief, Fritz Lang did not change the title from ‘The Murderers are Among Us’ to ‘M’ due to fear of persecution by the Nazis. He changed the title during filming, influenced by the scene where one of the criminals writes the letter on his hand. Lang thought ‘M’ was a more interesting title.’”

– Source: Internet Movie Database

September 15th, 2006

Close-Up

Posted in Quotes by DavidE

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long shot.”

– Attributed to Charles Chaplin

September 13th, 2006

Silent Footsteps

Posted in Images, Trivia by DavidE

Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity (1944) was based on an actual murder case from 1927. Ruth Snyder took out a large insurance policy on her husband, and then killed him with the help of her boyfriend. The policy had an unusual double indemnity clause.

According to Wikipedia, “Judd Gray, the man on whom MacMurray’s Neff character was loosely based, said when he confessed, after killing Albert Snyder, ‘When I walked I listened for my step — no sound seemed to follow.’ Neff says, ‘I couldn’t hear my footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man.’”

September 13th, 2006

Give It a Try

Posted in Quotes by DavidE

“I’ve seen Billy Wilder take suggestions from a prop man, and I don’t know a stronger director than Billy as far as being definite about what he wants, especially since he’s also the author. But he’ll listen and let you try. That’s the important thing, to at least let others try their ideas, and then say no or yes.”

– Jack Lemmon interviewed for Film Comment (May-June 1973)

September 11th, 2006

The Playhouse

Posted in Images, Streams by DavidE

Buster Keaton

Here’s a link to stream the classic silent comedy short: The Playhouse (1921). Before computer-based special effects, there were in-camera special effects. The cameraman (in those days, almost always a man) would roll the film back and hand-crank a second shot at exactly the same speed as before. That challenge was multiplied to an almost impossible degree in Buster Keaton’s The Playhouse (1921), where Keaton plays every cast member in a theatrical production.

If you prefer to download this public domain short, you can visit here.

September 11th, 2006

Skip the Middle

Posted in Quotes by DavidE

“By the time we were ready to start a picture, everyone on the lot knew what we’d been talking about, so we never had anything on paper. Neither Chaplin, Lloyd, nor myself, even when we got into feature-length pictures, ever had a script. . . .

“Somebody would come up with an idea. ‘Here’s a good start,’ we’d say. We skip the middle. We never paid any attention to the middle. We immediately went to the finish. We worked on the finish and if we get a finish that we’re all satisfied with, then we’ll go back and work on the middle. For some reason, the middle always took care of itself.”

– Buster Keaton interviewed for The Parade’s Gone By (1968)

September 9th, 2006

The Music Lives On

Posted in Images, Trivia by DavidE

Max Steiner Stamp

Film composer Max Steiner died on December 28, 1971, but he continued to rack up film credits.

Zorro, the Gay Blade (1981) included some of his music from The Adventures of Don Juan (1948). Creepshow (1982) included music from A Star is Born (1937). Great Balls of Fire! (1989) and UHF (1989) included music from Gone with the Wind (1939). Lost in Yonkers (1993) included music from Now, Voyager (1942). And King Kong (2005) included the fanfare from King Kong (1933).

September 9th, 2006

Hearing People

Posted in Quotes by DavidE

“The way I approached writing music for films was to fit the music to what I thought the dramatic story should be and score according to the way a character impressed me, whoever he might be. He may be a bastard, she may be a wonderful woman, he may be a child. I write what I see. This is very difficult for anybody to understand. Especially for anybody with such eyesight as I have. But I see a character on the screen and that is what makes me write the way I do. That is also the reason that people enjoy what they hear because it happens to fit.”

– Max Steiner interviewed for The Real Tinsel (1970)